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Published Feb. 11, 2008

What's hot: The best action in lower Tampa Bay continues to be trout and bluefish. Before fishing, keep track of the tide and weather. Extreme low tides will concentrate the trout and bluefish along the drop-off of a flat. The blues and smaller trout will be in 3 to 4 feet. The larger trout want to stay closer to the drop-off, at 1 to 2 feet, to avoid being stalked by dolphin. You won't find large numbers of trout in the shallow water, but you will have a shot at one that's more than 20 inches. Strong winds out of the north will push more water out of the bay and turn a normal low tide into an extreme one. South winds will make a low tide higher than the tide chart predicts.

Tackle: Topwater plugs, jigs and corked shrimp are hot baits in the lower part of the bay. Work the plugs along the drop early in the day. When the action slows, switch to a jig or shrimp and work the water that's 3 to 4 feet deep. Productive jig colors are strawberry, motor oil and white. When the water is clear, I'll use motor oil. The rest of the time, it's strawberry. Small jigs work well, but you might find larger ones and jerkbaits will catch the bigger fish. Keeping line test lighter than 15 pounds and leaders lighter than 25 will increase the strike ratio.

Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg.Call (727) 347-1389.

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